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Torch fireworks to be held on lake

The Antrim Review of Bellaire, Michigan

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ALDEN — A fireworks show initially set for the Helena Township baseball park on the east shore of Torch Lake south of Alden will return to its traditional location at the "sandbar" over the waters of the lake on July 3 after an agreement was reached last week between fireworks organizers and a local property owners association.

"The whole community wins with this agreement," said South Torch Area Association spokesperson Gordy Shafer, owner of The Dockside at Clam River, to the audience of several dozen people attending last week's monthly Helena Township meeting.

Canceled last year, Shafer and other members of STAA had re-organized this year to bring the Independence Day celebration over the south end of the lake, a tradition for almost 40 years, back to the area, but ran into problems when a lack of funds forced the show to be held on land, where the explosives could be fired manually, rather than over the water, which requires barges for the explosives and expensive remote control firing mechanisms.

The proposed new location had met with vigorous opposition from members of the Sunset Estate Homeowner's Association, many of whom own homes adjacent to the ballpark area.

With last week's agreement, a donation of $5,500 will be made by the homeowner's association to this year's fireworks event, which will allow STAA to buy the needed electronic firing equipment.

"Everything worked out in the end," said Sunset Estates Secretary William Baumgartner, who spoke before Shafer. "The members of Sunset Estates initially felt blindsided when we first read about Helena Township giving STAA a permit to have the show at the ballpark in the pages of The Antrim Review. We didn't feel it was safe to have the fireworks in that location, and could be dangerous."

"We've met with a lot of people since then," said Shafer, who gave Baumgartner and the other members of Sunset Estates kudos for "being civil and polite throughout the negotiationi process". "We needed money to get the barges fixed so we could use them for a fireworks show over the lake, and get the remote firing mechanisms. With this donation, which we're very grateful for, we will only need the ballpark to load the barges that day, which will all be supervised by the South Torch Lake Fire Department."

"When this all started, we decided to go with what funds we had available for this year's fireworks show," said STAA vice-president Paul Fabiano, a retired career firefighter who has worked with fireworks shows for many years. "We just wanted to have a fireworks show this year, which would then make it a lot easier to raise funds to repair the pontoons and get the electronics to return the show to the lake next year."

"We didn't know initially whether we should start by talking to the homeowners involved, or start by trying to get the permit to use the park from Helena Township, so we decided to start with the township," Fabiano went on to explain. "That opened a real can of worms."

"But I think everyone is thrilled that the show will be going back to the lake," he concluded.

South Torch Lake Fire Department Chief Jesse Lane agreed. "We're very happy to see the show go back to the lake, and are glad everything worked out."

The fireworks show, which will be conducted by Great Lakes Fireworks, LLC, which also conducts fireworks shows for the National Cherry Festival and other large Michigan events, will begin at dusk on Friday, July 3, with a tentative rain date set of Sunday, July 5.



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Original Publication Date: June 18, 2015



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